Fifty Years of Police Technology

By Dees, Tim | Law & Order, April 2003 | Go to article overview

Fifty Years of Police Technology


Dees, Tim, Law & Order


What passed for technology in, 1953 is an antique today, although the basic mission of crime suppression and investigation has not changed. A world of new technology exists. Take a close look at the development of forensics, breath testers, in-car video, and digital cameras: the technologies that appear to have seen the greatest advances and obtained the most widespread acceptance.

AFIS

Detectives have long been dependent on the boys in the lab to refine raw evidence and link physical evidence to suspects and victims, and many cases have been broken through some miracle conjured up by a criminalist. The problem that criminalists often had in the analysis of evidence was one of an embarrassment of riches. A clear, complete latent print left at a crime scene was close to useless when there was no suspect to compare it to. While it was technically possible for a fingerprint examiner to compare a latent print with all of those already on file, the millions of tenprint cards stored by the FBI, state criminal records repositories and local agencies often made this task impractical.

The widespread availability and lower cost of computers automated this process. A computer can scan a print pattern and reduce it to what amounts to a very long number, based on the presence or absence of information in the area analyzed. This number can then be compared to print records that have been similarly scanned and classified, and at a rate several orders of magnitude faster than a roomful of print examiners could accomplish. The process of comparing a latent print to each of 10 inked prints on millions of tenprint record cards would be enough to drive the most patient person insane, but computers do not bore easily.

This system, which came to be known genetically as the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS), can compare a latent print to as large a sample as desired (although system-wide comparisons still take considerable time), and at the same time consider every orientation of the print, since it isn't always evident whether the examiner is looking at a latent print right side up, upside down or sideways.

There is still a potential for missing the match between a latent print and someone who has a record card on file, because there are millions of tenprint cards that have never been entered into the system. This is a time-consuming task, and one that takes up computing power and storage space, which is always at a premium. Tenprint cards of military inductees that have never been charged with crimes, civil service employees, and applicants for licenses as teachers and physicians are often excluded from the scanned sample, because of the relatively low incidence of criminal behavior among these groups. Even record cards obtained from arrestees are often excluded, depending on the nature of the charge, because there is always a backlog of cards obtained from dangerous felons waiting to be entered into the system.

A process that may eventually get nearly everyone into the AFIS network involves the use of live scan equipment. Live scan employs electronic scanners that record fingerprints instantly and without any ink or chemicals. Wireless technology is even bringing live scan to the street. Handheld and car-mounted scanners can record and transmit a single print for comparison, immediately confirming identity and wanted status if the person is in the system.

Many states are encoding rudimentary print data on their drivers' licenses, so that license holders can confirm their identity and the authenticity of the license to officers in the field immediately. The limiting factor on the proliferation of this technology is money. Until the hardware becomes cheap enough for every law enforcement agency to afford it, many officers are going to be using the old-fashioned methods.

DNA

Blood left behind at a crime scene in the 1950s was considered good evidence, but not great evidence. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Fifty Years of Police Technology
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.